Mid-Day Digest

Jun. 21, 2019


“Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course.” —George Washington (1796)

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Trump’s Art of the Trade Deals With Mexico and China

This week has seen big updates on the trade front. The White House reported late yesterday, “A day after Mexico’s 114-4 landslide vote to become the first country to ratify the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Washington today. In addition to meeting with President Donald J. Trump at the White House, the Prime Minister encouraged Congress to make USMCA a bipartisan priority.” In other words, memo to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Knock it off with the Obstruct Trump™ agenda and do something positive for a change.

While Trump was busy fixing trade with Mexico he was also leveraging our southern neighbor on immigration. Donald Luskin of Trend Macrolytics makes an interesting observation: “Mexico just agreed to expend its resources to stem the flow of migrants from Central America through Mexico into the United States. In essence, Trump just delivered on the biggest, craziest campaign promise in history. He just used tariffs to get Mexico to agree to pay for the wall.” A metaphorical wall, to be sure, but that’s something. And Trump playing hardball by tying tariffs to immigration didn’t derail trade negotiations as some feared.

But Trump wasn’t only working with Mexico and Canada this week. He announced Tuesday that he “had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi [Jinping] of China” and that the two leaders planned to have “an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan.” The potential for an end to the trade war via the possibility of a new trade deal between the world’s two largest economies injected a positive surge in the markets — the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.4% upon the news.

The Wall Street Journal notes, “The G-20 gathering of political leaders from large economies can often be a threat to the health of those economies. But if Mr. Trump can use this meeting to persuade Chinese dictator Xi Jinping to stop mistreating U.S. companies — in return for ending American tariffs — economic health is sure to improve worldwide.” Xi may be motivated to make concessions because Chinese manufacturing is hurting in part due to the tariffs.

As we have regularly noted, there is a third player in this particular trade war — Beijing’s North Korean puppet, Kim Jong-un. Last week, Xi took the unusual step of meeting with Kim in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. It appears that Xi may be working to leverage the trade talks with the promise of some sort of nuclear concession from Kim. Any deal is still a long way from done, but at least the initial signs are promising. As we’ve said before of China and North Korea, trade and national security are inextricably linked.

Finally, it’s worth reiterating U.S. trade numbers with Mexico and China for perspective. In 2018, the U.S. exported $299 billion to Mexico while importing $372 billion, for a trade deficit of nearly $73 billion. As for China, the U.S. exported just $74 billion while importing $297 billion, leaving the trade deficit at an eye-popping $222 billion. Given that America is essentially funding China’s military with that money, Trump’s more than justified in pointing to that as a big problem, even if Mexico is the bigger trade partner.

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SCOTUS Rules Against Left’s War on Peace Cross

Religious liberty won another big victory at the Supreme Court on Thursday, though we wish it had been even bigger and clearer. In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, seven of the justices agreed that the 40-foot cross erected in 1925 by the American Legion to honor 49 Marylanders killed during World War I does not represent an “establishment” of religion. Most Americans might think that’s a no-brainer, but the atheists who sued actually prevailed in the Fourth Circuit Court, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg both agreed with the plaintiffs.

We say the victory for religious liberty could have been bigger because the seven justices in the majority split five ways in coming to their ruling. That means its implications for future cases in lower courts is diluted and unclear.

Justice Stephen Breyer joined in the end result, but he (along with Elena Kagan) argued that the Court’s opinion would not necessarily “permit any newly constructed religious memorial on public land” because “there is no single formula for resolving Establishment Clause challenges.”

However, as Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his concurring opinion, “What matters when it comes to assessing a monument, symbol, or practice isn’t its age but its compliance with ageless principles. The Constitution’s meaning is fixed, not some good-for-this-day-only coupon, and a practice consistent with our nation’s traditions is just as permissible whether undertaken today or 94 years ago.”

Gorsuch also argued that taking offense is not sufficient for standing to sue in such cases because there has been no “concrete and particularized injury.” This, he explained, “will bring with it the welcome side effect of rescuing the federal judiciary from the sordid business of having to pass aesthetic judgment, one by one, on every public display in this country for its perceived capacity to give offense. In a large and diverse country, offense can be easily found.”

Justice Clarence Thomas went the furthest, arguing that the three-part test for determining establishment of religion set in the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman ruling should be thrown out entirely. Thomas rightly said it “has no basis in the original meaning of the Constitution.”

Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the prevailing majority opinion, summed up the matter: “A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.” Unfortunately, that last phrase — “aggressively hostile to religion” — precisely defines today’s Left, and that’s why a clearer ruling from the Supreme Court would have been welcome.

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For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.


  • RETALIATION ABOUT-FACE: “President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.” (The New York Times)
  • SAUDI DEAL BLOCKED: “The Senate voted to block President Trump’s Saudi arms deal on Thursday, paving the way for a veto clash with the White House. … The 22 arms sales, estimated to be worth more than $8 billion, would provide weapons to Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. … Neither chamber is expected to be able to muster the two-thirds votes necessary to override all-but-guaranteed vetoes from Trump in response.” (The Hill)
  • JUSTICE FOR DOXXED REPUBLICANS: “The former Sheila Jackson Lee staffer who posted the private information of Republican senators during the final hearing for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been sentenced to four years in prison for his crime.” (The Daily Wire)
  • GALLAGHER BOMBSHELL: “U.S. Navy SEAL Corey Scott stated that it was he, not accused Special Warfare Chief Eddie Gallagher, who was responsible for the death of an injured Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017. The admission turns the controversial trial of Gallagher, 40, upside down and is likely to lead to a defense motion to acquit him.” (Washington Examiner)
  • CHRIS COX SIDELINED: “The National Rifle Association has sidelined its top lobbyist, Chris Cox, after accusing him in court documents of participating in what it called a failed extortion scheme to rid the organization of its top executive,” The Washington Post reports. As its core, this is a contest of titan personalities.
  • HEALTH CARE TRANSPARENCY: “President Trump plans to issue an executive order Monday to compel the disclosure of prices in health care… The order will direct federal agencies to initiate regulations and guidance that could require insurers, doctors, hospitals and others in the industry to provide information about the negotiated and often discounted cost of care.” (The Wall Street Journal)
  • CALIFORNIA VOTER CLEANUP: “Los Angeles County has started the process of removing from its registration rolls an estimated 1.5 million inactive voters who have moved, died or become ineligible to cast a ballot, an effort to comply with federal election law and a court settlement with Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog. … In addition, California’s top election official has put all 58 of its counties on notice that they must also purge inactive voters from their rosters. … There were an estimated 5 million inactive registrations in the state as of November 2016, the latest figures available.” (RealClearPolitics)
  • ROY MOORE DEFIANT: “Failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore announced on Thursday that he is running for the same Senate seat in 2020 after accusations of child molestation derailed his campaign in 2017.” (The Daily Wire)
  • NEVER BELIEVE GOVERNMENT PROMISES: “Gun advocates in New Zealand are angry over a government plan aimed at buying back now-illegal firearms and magazines that were outlawed after a mass shooting in March that killed dozens of worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch. … [Council of Licensed Firearms Owners spokesperson Nicole] McKee said gun owners are ‘angry and they’re frustrated’ because the government reneged on a promise not ‘to rip us off.’ ‘They said they would pay full value. They’re not, and 250,000 [firearms license holders] are starting to feel ripped off,’ she said.” (NPR)
  • POLICY: Is Iran close to collapse? Three things you need to know about the U.S.-Iran showdown (The National Interest)
  • POLICY: Medicaid expansion is a failure: Lots of spending, little benefit (Washington Examiner)
  • HUMOR: Ilhan Omar getting excited by all this talk about concentration camps (The Babylon Bee)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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Marc A. Thiessen: “[Joe] Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, when the Democratic Party was very different than it is today. As a freshman senator, he had to get along with the senior leadership of his party — which included segregationists James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. You may be thinking: Who in the world are James Eastland and Herman Talmadge? You’re not alone. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of living Americans had either forgotten their names or never heard of them in the first place, until Biden decided to dredge them up from the fever swamps of the Democratic Party’s sordid racial past. Why, you ask, would he do such a thing? Because that’s what Joe Biden does. He is a walking, talking gaffe machine. His point didn’t even make sense. He was trying to argue that he can work across the aisle with people with whom he fundamentally disagrees. But Eastland and Talmadge sat on the same side of the aisle as Biden in the Senate; they were Democrats. … No reasonable person thinks that Biden was defending or even sympathetic to segregation. What Biden was trying to do — in his own, Bideny way — was to defend not segregation but civility and compromise. But sadly, in today’s Democratic Party, those ideas are just as controversial.”


Upright: “Most of the best parts of our constitutional order are undemocratic and act as counters to the popular passions of democracy, which our Founding Fathers understood, feared, and held in contempt for good reason.” —Kevin Williamson

Food for thought: “Self is now god in America, and modern man will embrace whatever delusion he must in its worship.” —Peter Heck

For the record: “It sure doesn’t feel worse than when I grew up in Jim Crow Alabama. So let’s drop this notion that we’re [in] worse race relations today than we were in the past. That means we’ve made no progress. Really?” —Condoleezza Rice

Nice pivot: “I’m absolutely comfortable using that term because it is rooted in an academic definition. Often times when the term concentration camp is evoked what people think of are extermination camps. They think of Auschwitz.” —Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Non Compos Mentis: “I know what concentration camps are. I was inside two of them, in America. And yes, we are operating such camps again.” —George Takei

Braying Jackass: “[Donald Trump’s] uncontrollable jealousy of Barack Obama will lead to thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, wildfires, floods. What a small-minded, short-sighted little man.” —Bette Midler

Alpha Jackass: “Men and women who have bad genes with genetic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancer etc should not produce children. They have no right to make others suffer.” —feminist author Taslima Nasreen

The BIG Lie: “More than 100 years ago, Planned Parenthood was founded on the simple idea that our bodies are our own — without that, we cannot be truly free or equal.” —Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen (“Wrong. Revisionist history. Planned Parenthood was founded on EUGENICS by Margaret Sanger, whose goal was to make sure ‘undesirable’ populations weren’t reproducing. Or, if they became pregnant, their babies were aborted.” —Liz Wheeler)

D'oh! “My name is Ms. Hicks.” —Hope Hicks to Rep. Jerry Nadler, who on multiple occasions called her “Ms. Lewandowksi”

And last… “This is your daily reminder the Attorney General of Minnesota is someone who is accused of multiple incidents of domestic abuse with 911 calls and bruises as evidence. His name: Keith Ellison. Democrats pretend to ‘believe women’ until real abuse happens within their own party.” —Charlie Kirk

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.



For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

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